Pained homeowners protest delay of leases on Chinese built ‘cheap’ flats

The Great Wall Gardens in Athi River, Machakos County. [Courtesy]
A storm is brewing at a multi-billion shilling housing development over delay in issuance of sub-leases by its Chinese builders.

Despite spending a fortune to buy units at the high-rise Great Wall Gardens in Athi River, homeowners have nothing to prove that they own the houses aside from a set of keys.

The lack of sub-leases, they said, has robbed them of the peace of mind they expected when they decided to buy their own homes.

Interviews with some homeowners betray deep seated anxiety over the lack of the document which would prove their ownership of the homes and frustration at the Chinese developer who they feel is dragging its feet on the issue.

“We paid stamp duty in 2017 and up to now, we are yet to get our sub-leases,” Sophia Mwendwa, a resident of the housing development said.

On May 3, the residents wrote to the developer, Edermann, and their lawyers Simba and Simba expressing worries over the delay in processing the subleases. “We are greatly concerned that registration of the sub-leases delayed, this has exposed some homeowners to great risks of penalties accruals for unpaid stamp duty including denying homeowners the benefit of realising their investments in the event they desire to dispose their properties,” the letter by Great Wall Gardens Athi River Homeowners Association said.

It is instructive, the association’s leaders said yesterday, that a number of units still under the ownership of the developer had received their sub-leases yet they had not.

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“We bought these units at Sh3 million back in 2017 and we paid the stamp duty for that figure but the value has appreciated, we are concerned that the longer the process takes we will be forced to incur penalties,” a female home owner said. 

Angry owners

A representative from the company told Sunday Standard that the registration of the sub-leases was ongoing but had been delayed by an error that forced them to start the process again.

“We had everything in order but had to redo it again after we realised that there was an error in the way the documents were stamped,” Michael Olanya, Erdemann Property Limited Sales and Marketing Manager, said on Friday. “If there are any costs to be borne, that is up to us.”

He defended the company against allegations that it had only acquired sub-leases for its own units at the expense of other homeowners.

“Those were the units that were not sold and we registered them, it is easier for us to register since the process is simpler and shorter,” he said.

Nevertheless, he said, a number of the sub-leases would be ready by the end of the year.

The developers Facebook page is populated with the angry owners who are raising issue with the lack of deeds.

“Deliver your end of the bargain and issue sub-leases to home owners of Great Wall Gardens who paid for the houses in full, including stamp duty, over two years ago,” Njeri Tharao said.

“Please provide our sub-leases as we paid for them fully in 2017. The management should work for the good of the residents and if they are not capable to do that, let them hire professional estate managers,” Agina Wanjiru said.

Besides the lack of ownership documents, the homeowner’s hope of buying their own homes to escape the exorbitant rates charged for rent in Nairobi are turning out to be a pipe dream.

Crippling water shortage and unreasonable high rates on the rare chance that water flows in the taps have conspired to make living at the flats an intolerable experience.

Homeowners are forced to part with thousands of shillings to pay for water and are often forced to buy the commodity from vendors at an even higher cost.

Water bills seen by Sunday Standard corroborated homeowner accounts that they had to pay Sh20,000 or more for water, a sum almost equal to the cost, Sh30,000 of a rental unit at the flats.

Owners are required to pay a water installation fee of Sh10,000 for a water metre and Sh5,000 for deposit.

For a unit of the water, which is supplied by Mavoko Water and Sewerage Company (MAVWASCO) or the nearby Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA), residents are charged Sh300, a sum almost four times the average cost of water in Nairobi.

“When I moved into the house, I had to pay Sh5,000 for water yet I had barely been in the house for a week,” a dissatisfied resident said.

Some homeowners had raised the issue and had the water metres replaced.

“There are a number who complained and had the water metres replaced but the bill persisted, we have now been forced to wonder if this was really the best decision we made,” said the resident.

A representative from the company said the homeowners bore the high cost for water charged by EPZA.

“Our main sources of water are EPZA and MAVWASCO and what they charge is what the customers bear,” Olanya said.

‘Affordable’ units

The explanation is however contrary to the water tariffs published by MAVWASCO on its website where it states that the cost of a unit of water is Sh90.

Mr Olanya conceded that water had been rationed earlier in the year due to a shortage in the area but the issue had since been resolved.

The flats are built on a 30-acre parcel of land in Athi River and were billed as affordable units for middle and lower income earners.

Currently, two phases have been completed and a third is underway.

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Great Wall GardensAthi RiverEdermannHousing